Government Public Works

Is This Item Recyclable? West Hartford Is Hosting ‘Wishcycling’ Webinar

Some of these items are allowed in your recycling bin and others are not. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s Department of Public Works will be hosting an interactive session about recycling on Feb. 15, 2023.

By Ronni Newton

People may think they are doing the right thing, when in fact they are putting items into the recycling bin that are not allowed in West Hartford’s single stream recycling program.

“They think: ‘It’s better to just toss it in there,'” West Hartford Recycling Coordinator Katherine Bruns said. And while it may go against your belief system to instead throw something away if you’re not positive it’s recyclable, she said that’s actually a better choice.

“Wishcycling” – putting materials into the recycling bin because you think they might be allowed – is common, but could potentially cause entire loads of recyclable materials to be rejected because of a high contamination rate. Those materials would then all go into the waste stream.

A webinar hosted by West Hartford’s Department of Public Works, with featured guest speakers Sherill Baldwin and Emma MacDonald from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), planned for Feb. 15, from 6-7 p.m., will provide answers to common questions about what should be in your recycling bin and what belongs elsewhere.

The session will be held as a webinar, with the attendees having the opportunity to have their own questions answered. It will be available for viewing on West Hartford Community Interactive (Comcast channel 5, Frontier channel 6098 and YouTube), and those who would like to ask questions can register for the WebEx link by clicking here.

Bruns said the most common recycling mistake in West Hartford continues to be that people throw their materials into their blue bin in plastic bags. Styrofoam and black plastic are not allowed in the recycle bin either.

“People just put anything in that has a triangle,” she said, but there are reasons why some materials cannot be recycled in Connecticut. Sometimes there are too many different materials comprising one item (the container of Panko bread crumbs in the photo above is not allowed in the recycling bin because the machines can’t separate the metal, cardboard, and plastic). Other items are too small for the machines, and in some cases there is no market for the material.

“The material is always changing. It’s a commodity,” Bruns said.

The fastest growing non-recyclable item is the flexi-pack, which is lightweight and durable, but can’t be recycled in the single stream process or as film plastic, Bruns said.

“The contamination rate has not gone down,” Bruns said. People try to recycle plastic cutlery or paper coffee cups, which are not allowed. Plastic cups used for ice coffee are, however (but not the lids or the straws), as are Solo cups.

The Town of West Hartford has details about what “What’s IN” and “What’s OUT” on its website, and there is a West Hartford Recycles “Waste Wizard” app that allows users to search for a specific item, but it’s still not always clear-cut. The Feb. 15 webinar can provide more answers and Bruns urges people to bring items that they are wondering about.

Questions can be directed to Bruns at [email protected] or 860-561-8107, or to the Department of Public Works at 860-561-8100.

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